What Happens in a Refrigerator Cycle?

Life is so much easier with a refrigerator. It keeps your favorite drink and desserts cool while keeping that pizza you were saving for later fresh and ready to reheat. While it might seem like your fridge doesn’t do much to operate apart from sitting there and running all day long, there’s actually more to it than just that. Homeowners would benefit from knowing the principles behind refrigeration, such as how often a refrigerator should cycle. This ensures that they’re properly maintaining one of the most expensive appliances in their household. Spotting signs of trouble early and being able to communicate it accurately with a technician can save your refrigerator from breaking down. Here is a simple guide to the refrigerator cycle to help you keep your appliance in tip-top shape.

The Refrigeration Cycle

Refrigerating the contents of your fridge is a cycle that repeats itself over and over again. There are coolants in the refrigerator that are used to generate a cool interior, such as ammonia. This particular refrigerant boils at a low temperature, and it is this that starts the refrigeration cycle.

1. Compressor and Refrigerant

The compressor’s function is just the way it is worded: it compresses the refrigerant to be heated. It also controls the refrigerant’s flow.

2. Heated Refrigerant Is Turned Into Liquid

As the hot refrigerant gas exits, coils on the fridge play a role in its transformation. Condenser coils on the outside of the refrigerator allow the heated refrigerant gas to cool and pressurize into liquid form.

3. Refrigerant Evaporates Into Gas

After the refrigerant is turned into liquid form at high pressure, it flows into the expansion valve at low pressure through the interior evaporation coils. Here, the liquid boils, turns into gas, and cools down. This is the substance that makes your refrigerator cold.

After all of these steps, the compressor pulls up the gas to repeat the process.

Refrigerator Maintenance

Knowing how the refrigeration cycle works will help you with its maintenance, an important part of keeping your appliance running smoothly while consuming energy efficiently. Familiarizing yourself with how often a refrigerator should cycle on and off will alert you immediately if something is wrong with your unit.

Be sure to inspect the door seal gaskets to ensure that the cool gas stays inside your refrigerator. Cleaning the coils will also help the refrigerant gases, and liquids flow properly during the cycle.

Other good practices include setting the refrigerator temperature accordingly, between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’ve ever heard that leaving the fridge door open was bad for the appliance, then it’s really mostly because letting the coolant out reduces the refrigerator’s efficacy. Avoid storing items that are still very hot or keeping your fridge empty to avoid making the unit work harder.


No matter if you’re curious as to how much energy a mini-fridge uses or wish to take care of your family’s refrigerator as a long-term investment, understanding the refrigerator cycle will always be important to any homeowner. Appliances that don’t operate at peak efficiency drain energy and increase electricity bills, so you’ll want to ensure that all the major ones in your home are in good working order. Knowing the signs of a malfunctioning refrigerator may save you hundreds of dollars in the long run, all thanks to your basic knowledge of its cooling cycles!

At Pixel Fridge, we provide our readers with reviews, tips, analyses, opinions, and recommendations for high-quality refrigerators. Whether you need to check a mini fridge’s electricity cost or what unit is most eco-friendly, we’ve got you covered. Download your free e-book from us today to get free refrigerator hack guides!

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